Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Karate Kid (2010 version) (4 Stars)

I've heard a lot of bad said about this film. Mostly "It's not as good as the original". That's a common criticism of remakes. People who love a film usually groan when it's made again with different actors and maybe even a different style. In my case I'm unbiased, because I haven't seen the 1984 original version. Apart from that, the new version stars Jackie Chan, and he's never made a bad film.

The story is about Dre, a 12-year-old boy who moves from Detroit to Beijing with his mother. Presumably her company has sent her to China, but we aren't told why, and we never see her going to work. Dre hates it. The country is so foreign to him, he doesn't speak the language, and he's bullied at school. Things start to change when he develops a friendship with his building's maintenance man, Mr. Han, who turns out to be an expert in kung fu.

To be honest, the film has the wrong name. It should be called "The Kung Fu Kid". Karate is a Japanese fighting style, whereas kung fu is Chinese. It's true that karate originated from kung fu, but over the centuries it has developed in a different direction. Karate concentrates on short effective strikes, whereas kung fu has more elegant movements. On the other hand, karate is a well defined style, whereas kung fu is divided into a variety of fighting styles.

The chemistry between Jackie Chan (Mr. Han) and Jaden Smith (Dre) is overwhelming. The viewer can sense that it's not just acting. When the two hug one another we can feel that Jackie has a fondness for the young boy, the next generation of actors, whereas Jaden truly looks up to Jackie as a mentor. It's a beautiful film, whether or not it's as good as the original.

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